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Is Culture Just for Rich Kids Now?

February 10, 2015 in Blogs

By Stephen Marche, Huffington Post

Culture, like so much of American life, is being shaped by rising income inequality.

A class war is raging in British culture. James McAvoy, the star of the X-Men reboots, is the latest actor to wade into the debate, when he told The Herald of Scotland that an acting career was becoming an elite activity: “That's a frightening world to live in because as soon as you get one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts, or culture starts to become representative not of everybody, but of one tiny part, and that's not fair to begin with, but it's also damaging for society.”

McAvoy was adding his voice to the laments of a number of other performers, including Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. Julie Waters, famous for her role in Educating Rita and as the dance teacher in Billy Elliott, recently bemoaned the current lack of opportunities for young working-class actors: “People like me wouldn't get a chance today.” The battle has even turned political. When the shadow culture minister, Chris Bryant, claimed that the British music industry was “too posh,” James Blunt, who attended Harrow public school, called him a “classist gimp.” All of this is terribly British, of course. Britain has always had a class system, and culture has been an integral reflection of it. Americans are in no place to sneer anymore, however. The same process is underway in the United States. The ability to create increasingly belongs to the wealthy.

Culture, like so much of American life, is being shaped by rising income inequality. Art, which was the domain of a democratic, sometimes anarchic spirit, has become a preserve for the cool display of privilege.

In hip-hop, once considered the most direct expression of the life of the streets, the top practitioners are now Drake and Kanye West, the first of whom is a nice boy from one of the better neighborhoods in Toronto, and the latter of whom is the son of a professor of American literature. The literary novel is obsessed with the minutiae of academic and personal life among …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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